Downtown merchants look to Beaufort waterfront for increased business

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 5, 2012 

There's more than one way to arrive in Beaufort, and several merchants want more people to step off boats in the heart of downtown.

A mooring-field project and a day-dock extension have been on the to-do list for city officials and the Redevelopment Commission's list for a while, commission chairman John Verity said, and it has moved up with a push by business owners.

"Beaufort has one of the prettiest waterfront communities on the East Coast, and we feel that by making it more inviting, we will bring more people and more business to town," said Kevin Cuppia, owner of Modern Jewelers on Bay Street.

Cuppia, Tony Royal of Bay Street Outfitters and David Cargile of Cargile Consulting Inc. are on Main Street Beaufort USA's business-development committee and are among those behind the day-dock discussion.

Cargile has talked to S.C. Department of Natural Resources officials, who told him about $100,000 might be available for the project, Cuppia said. Local contractors estimated it would cost between $160,000 and $200,000 to build a 250-foot day dock.

The Redevelopment Committee has designs that place the day dock on the west end of the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Verity said that would leave enough room for cruise vessels to continue to dock along the park's seawall.

Cuppia suggested the day dock could be built with wood pilings, instead of concrete, so it could be moved as needed.

Day-dock users would "come into the downtown and would hopefully be shopping in the stores and eating at the restaurants," Verity said, adding cruise vessel passengers tend to eat on board.

Beaufort has a day dock, but it is too small, poorly designed and inconveniently located on the far west side of the marina, Cuppia said. People docking there have to walk through the horse carriage staging area.

The city has a permit from the state Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management to expand its day dock and is trying to amend it to allow a mooring field, too, city manager Scott Dadson said. City officials believe they are in line for a $100,000 grant that would cover most of the costs.

The mooring field is included in the city's marina-management contract with harbormaster Rick Griffin, Dadson said. Management of a day dock, which would be free, would have to be negotiated with Griffin or, Cuppia suggested, managed by Lanier Parking Services, which has the city's parking contract.

The projects would need council approval and have not been formalized or voted on. However, council members' discussions during work session have been largely supportive of pursing the day dock and mooring field over the next few months.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.

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